I am wondering which one of the following is right :

Do you know anyone/someone who/that can help me.

I have already looked at some translator but it looks like both are right..but I guess that there is one that is more usual.

  • 2
    Short answer: "who" is preferable to "that" (since you are speaking of a person), and either "someone" or "anyone" is acceptable. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:27
  • Thank you, it wasn't necessary to make a long answer anyway, yours is what I expected :) Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:38
  • "Anyone" and "someone" are usually (but not always) interchangeable in interrogatives with little change in meaning - in your example, they are. "Who vs that" is totally irrelevant to meaning in relative clauses. With human head nouns it's a free choice between wh- relatives and that- relatives: someone who can help me and someone that can help me show no semantic or syntactic differences.
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


Someone and anyone mean different things. So which one is right depends on what you want to say. That is quite common in everyday English when speaking about a person, especially in spoken English. In formal English and in written English, who might be preferred.

Someone refers to a specific but unidentified person:

There's someone at the door.

You also say someone when you think there might be a person in existence who fits the definition of who you are referring to. This person is still specific but unidentified:

Do you know someone who can help me?

You think there is a possibility that a person exists who can help you, but you're not sure who they are.

If you have doubts that any person fits this description, that no such person might actually exist who can help you, you use anyone:

Do you know anyone who can help me?

You would not say

?There's anyone at the door.

because if you think there is a person at the door, even an identified person, you would use someone.

If you hear a noise in another room and you not sure it was a person who made the noise, you can ask

Is anyone there?

Perhaps it's a person, perhaps it's an inanimate object.

But if you think a person made the noise , you would say

Is someone there?

Here, again, you think there's a person present, but you have not identified who it is.

And my use of who in this answer illustrates my preference to use who in written English, although I know I use that in everyday spoken English, as do many native speakers.

  • Okay thank you, so if I got it right, I should use anyone when I'm not sure if a person fits the situation and someone if I think it does. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:59
  • @SteevenBrunner Yes, that's correct. If it's not clear, leave a comment. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 18:08

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